Combustible Celluloid
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With: Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning, Ben Chaplin, Joanne Whalley, David Paymer, Anthony Fusco, Alden Ehrenreich, Bruce A. Miroglio, Don Novello, Ryan Simpkins
Written by: Francis Ford Coppola
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
MPAA Rating: R for some bloody violence
Running Time: 88
Date: 08/10/2012

Twixt (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Gawky Horror Show

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Twixt is the third of Francis Ford Coppola's late-career independent/experimental period, though this movie was greeted with even more indifference than the previous two, Youth Without Youth and Tetro. But it is more fun.

Val Kilmer stars as a drunken, pudgy third-rate horror writer, Hall Baltimore, who specializes in tales of witches. He drives himself to his next book-signing, in a town so small it doesn't have a bookstore; his signing will be in the hardware store. The town has a creepy, seven-face town clock that keeps seven different times. The local sheriff, Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern), tries to convince Baltimore that the town has a great spooky murder mystery that they could write together. Baltimore agrees to stay.

Meanwhile, he drinks a lot, talks to his wife (Kilmer's real-life ex-wife Joanne Whalley), and demands money from his publisher (David Paymer). The sheriff keeps accusing him of balking on their deal. He meets a strange young girl known only as "V" (Elle Fanning), has dreams and speaks to Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin), and sees ghosts.

In a strange and touching passage, Coppola wrestles with the 1986 death of his son Gian-Carlo in speedboating accident. (Baltimore loses his daughter in a similar fashion.)

Twixt often doesn't make sense, and Coppola's weird use of digital backdrops tends to kill the mood. But happily Coppola fully embraces the absurd here and doesn't mind dropping in little moments of humor, whether it fits or not (such as Kilmer's vocal imitations of Brando, James Mason, etc.). It's the kind of movie that almost seems to invite unintentional laughter, and of all Coppola's movies, it's the closest in spirit to his early horror movie Dementia 13. But anyone hoping for a return to form by the creator of The Godfather -- which is probably just about everyone -- will be disappointed.

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